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Review of Nano additives in stabilization of Soil

Salwa Serageddin Shahin1, Prof. Dr. Laila Abd El-Meguid Fayed1,

Dr. Eng. Hebaturahman Ahmad2
Faculty of Science, Cairo University, Egypt
Housing & Building National Research Center, Egypt


The use of stabilization techniques has increased significantly in recent decades to adopt
cost-effective solutions, to achieve reductions in quantities of material used and etc. Soil
stabilization by adding materials such as cement, lime, bitumen etc. is one of effective
methods for improving the geotechnical properties of soils. Nanoparticles are one of the
newest additives and many studies about using Nanoparticles in soil improvement have
been done. The use of Nanotechnology in some talented fields such as soil
improvement, seepage and grouting will offer great advantages in geotechnics. This
paper review the major Nano additives used in stabilization of soil and their influence
on the different properties of soil.

Key Words
Nano Additives, Soil Stabilization, Nano-Clay, Nano-Silica


Soil is one of natures most abundant construction materials. Almost all construction is
built with or upon soil. When unsuitable construction conditions are encountered, a
contractor has four options; finding a new construction site, redesign the structure,
remove the poor soil and replace it with suitable soil or improving the engineering
properties of the site soils. Improving an on-site (in situ) soils engineering properties is
referred to as soil stabilization. Soil stabilization is seen as a means of enhancing
aspects of engineering and other elements, including the conductivity of hydraulics,
compressibility, strength, and the density. There are two primary methods of soil
stabilization used today: Mechanical and Chemical or Additives.
A proper understanding of the geotechnical properties of soils is a pre-requisite for its
use in engineering construction works. Various stabilization techniques are available to
improve soil properties like addition of materials like cement, lime, bitumen etc.
Nanoparticles are one of the newest additives and researches are going on to find its
effect in properties of soils.

Nanotechnology is a rapidly emerging technology with vast potential to create new

materials with unique properties and to produce new and improved products for
numerous applications. In recent years Nanotechnology is also gaining popularity in the

field of Civil and Geotechnical Engineering. The applications of Nanotechnology in
geotechnical engineering in dealing with soil can be in two ways: 1) in studying soil
structure at the Nanoscale and 2) in soil manipulation at the atomic or molecular level
through the addition of Nanoparticles as an external factor to soil.

Many of the soil and rock minerals are Nanomaterial and their chemical reactions occur
in Nano scale. As a result of this fact, there is a great potential of Nanotechnologys
application in soil mechanics. Mixture of soil with some special additive could improve
the soil strength parameters, and this procedure has been performed in the past for
stabilization and improvement of weak soils. The main strategy of Nanotechnology in
geotechnical engineering is the improvement of soil parameters with the application of
Nano materials. The presence of Nano material in the soil could influence significantly
the physical and chemical behavior of soil due to a very high specific surface area of
Nano materials, surface charges and their morphologic properties.

Figure 1: Change of total surface area for same volume with change in size of cubes


Nano additives are been used directly with the soil or being an additive on the
stabilization material, like cement. Cement is an important resource for stabilizing, it is
been used widely in many construction applications. Even with using additives whether
Nano or else, cement is acting like a binder and strength material. Some researchers
studied the effect of adding Nano additives to the soil in presence of optimum cement
content and study the effect of the added Nano additives; others used the Nano additives
directly with the cement to enhance the behavior of cement on its own. Nano-Silica and
Nano-Clay are the major additives that is been studied in soil stabilization, few
researches studied other additives, like Nano-CuO, Carbon-Nanotube, Nano-MgO, or

1) Nano-Silica
Silica is known as pozzolanic material and has been used to stabilize and improve soil
strength (Diaz-Rodriguez, 2004; Patricia et al., 2007). In recent years, Nanoparticles
have attracted considerable scientific interest for many civil engineering applications.
Nanoparticles of SiO2 have been used as additives with soil or cement-soil mixture.

Sayed Hessam Bahmani (2014) performed an experimental study to determine the effect
of SiO2 Nanoparticles on consistency, compaction, hydraulic conductivity, and
compressive strength of cement-treated residual soil. There were no apparent changes in
the liquid limit (LL) of the Nano- SiO2-treated soil at any cement level. However, the
plastic limit (PL) of the specimens initially increased at Nano- SiO2 content of 0.2% but
then decreased at higher Nano- SiO2 contents. In general, the PL index of samples with
15 nm silica particles were lower than that of samples with 80 nm silica particles at
cement dosages of 4% and 6%. As the cement percentage increased to 8%, the PL of
samples with 80 nm silica particles decreased to a level below that of 15 nm silica
particles. Consequently, lower loads of Nano-silica of up to 0.2% resulted in the lowest
PI for all samples with the cement levels of 4 and 6%. The Nano-silica dosage
associated to the lowest PI increased to 0.4% at 8% cement level. The addition of
Nanoparticles resulted in an increase in the optimum moisture content (OMC) and a
slight decrease in the maximum dry density (MDD) of the specimens. A greater increase
in the MDD was observed with the addition of Nanoparticles with an average diameter
of 80 nm than that of 15 nm at all cement levels. It was also observed that an increase in
the Nanomaterial content resulted in a decrease in the MDD but an increase in the
OMC. Addition of Nano-silica increased the compressive strength of samples
dramatically. However, lower loads of SiO2 Nano particle resulted in higher strengths.
The maximum strength was 673 kPa, 1020 kPa, 1611 kPa for 4%, 6%, 8% cement,
respectively when silica particles of 15 nm were used. The compressive strength of the
samples without Nano-silica was 424 kPa, 450 kPa, and 515 kPa for 4%, 6%, 8%
cement, respectively. The addition of higher percentage of the Nanoparticles led to a
lower strength gain. According to the test results, Nanoparticles measuring 15 nm were
more effective in terms of strengthening the soil than those measuring 80 nm. It was
also observed that inclusion of Nanoparticles with smaller size led to a higher strength
development rate at all cement levels at early ages of soil stabilization. It may be stated
that application of Nano-silica may accelerate the soil stabilization to certain levels.

Figure 2: Variation in compaction characteristics of cement-treated soil with SiO2
nanoparticles with average diameters of 15 and 80 nm.

Figure 3: Effect of the addition of nano-SiO2 on unconfined compressive strength.

The hydraulic conductivity increased with an increase in content of both sizes of

Nanoparticles (15 and 80 nm), however, it was seen that the least conductivity was
observed with addition of 0.4% Nano-silica. The effect of 15 nm Nano-silica particles
on decreasing the hydraulic conductivity was greater compared with the effect of the 80
nm Nanoparticles. Inclusion of the Nano-silica to the soil reduced the intensity of the
peaks related to the calcium hydroxide. Moreover, the FTIR spectrum of the treated soil
showed a broad group of SiOSi band in the region of 6001500 cm. The differences
in the transmittance percentages and positions of the peaks in the untreated soil, the
cement-treated soil and the soilcement mixture with Nano-silica may reveal that the
nature and amount of the CSH phase has changed and may confirm the additional
formation of CSH gel. SEM images also showed formation of a very dense matrix in
which pores were filled to a great extent.

Seyedi et al., (2013) studied the use of Nano-Silica for stabilizing the weak soil and
improving the shear strength parameters. Where adding Nano-Silica in the mixture of
soil-lime (5% lime) caused decreasing the maximum dry density of the mixture and
increasing the optimum moisture content. The Unconfined compressive strength (UCS)
of the soil-lime mixture (5% lime) with adding 3% of Nano-Silica, increased up to 3
times (300%), after 28 days curing. The same comparison made for UCS of soil and
soil-lime-Nano-Silica mixture, and results showed an increase of 7.5 times (750%) in
UCS of soil for 3% Nano-Silica after 28 days curing.

2) Nano-Clay

Clays are layered minerals with space in between the layers where they can adsorb
positive and negative ions and water molecules. Clays undergo exchange interactions of
adsorbed ions with the outside too. Nanoclays are Nanoparticles of layered mineral
silicates. Depending on chemical composition and Nanoparticle morphology, Nanoclays
are organized into several classes such as montmorillonite, bentonite, kaolinite,
hectorite, and halloysite.

Zaid Hameed Majeed, (2014) studied the effect of addition of three Nanomaterials (i.e.,
Nano CuO, Nano MgO and Nano-clay) on the geotechnical properties of soft soil. The
liquid limit, plastic limit, linear shrinkage, compaction parameters and shear strength of
the soil were determined. Addition of each of the Nanomaterials decreased the liquid
limit, plastic limit, plasticity index and linear shrinkage of the soil. The dry density
increased with increasing Nanomaterial percentage. On the other hand, the optimum
moisture contents of the soil-Nanomaterials mixtures decreased with increase dosages
of Nanomaterial. In addition, when the Nanomaterial percentage exceeded the optimum
contents, there was evidence of particles agglomeration which in turn affected the
mechanical properties of soils negatively. As well, the compressive strength of the soil
increased with Nanomaterial addition. Moreover, the addition of a small amount of
Nanomaterials, i.e., not more than 1%, leads to enhancement of soil geotechnical
properties by increasing the compressive strength for all tested soils.

Norazlan Khalid, (2014) conducted laboratories studies to determine the properties of

Nano-kaolin mixed with kaolin. The raw of white kaolin sample was used in this study.
Meanwhile, the Nano-kaolin was produced using pulverization process through high
energy milling process from raw kaolin into Nano size. Only 3% Nano-kaolin was used
in this study to mix with kaolin due to the limited amount produced from the milling
process. The main objectives of this study to determine the geotechnical properties of
3% Nano-kaolin mixed with kaolin. The geotechnical properties regards to its
compaction characteristics, liquid limit, plastic limit, plasticity index, pH value, and
shrinkage value, hydraulic conductivity value, microstructure and Nanostructure of

kaolin and Nano-kaolin. Based on the experimental study, the presence of Nano-kaolin
were improved the kaolin properties, event at a small quantity or percentage of Nano-
kaolin were used. The presence of Nano-kaolin showed the dramatically influence to the
engineering and basic properties of kaolin. It shows that the values of liquid limit,
plastic limit and maximum dry density slightly higher after addition 3% Nano-kaolin.
Meanwhile the plasticity value, optimum moisture content, and hydraulic conductivity
value showed decreasing after addition of 3% Nano-kaolin. The application on small
amount of Nano-kaolin was significant improved the geotechnical properties of kaolin.

S.V. Neethu, (2013) studied the engineering behavior of Nano-Clay stabilized soil and
the effect of addition of Nano-clay on lateritic soil and kaolinite clay. To study the
effect of addition of Nano-clay on lateritic soil and kaolinite clay a series of tests were
conducted with varying concentrations of Nano-clay (0, 0.25, 0.5, 1, 1.5 and 2%).
Optimum concentration of Nano-clay for both the soils was determined from the test
results. For lateritic soil, by the addition of Nano-clay to lateritic soil, liquid limits and
plastic limits got increased. From compaction studies optimum moisture content
increased and maximum dry density decreased by the addition of various percentages of
Nano-clay to the soil. Coefficient of permeability values decreased up to 99.8% at 1%
optimum concentration of Nano-clay. Coefficient of permeability attained a value of
1x10-8 cm/sec and satisfied the range of 1x10-7 cm/sec which ensures that the material
can be used as a landfill liner. Unconfined compressive strength also got increased by
104% at optimum (1%) concentration of Nano-clay.
For kaolinite clay, by the addition of Nano-clay to lateritic soil liquid limits and plastic
limits are found to be increased. From compaction studies optimum moisture content
increased as the Nano-clay content increases and maximum dry density increased at
0.25% of Nano-clay and then it decreases. Coefficient of permeability values decreased
up to 96.53% at 1% optimum concentration of Nano-clay.
Coefficient of permeability attained a value of 9.79x10-7 cm/sec and satisfied the range
of 1x10-7 cm/sec which ensures that the material can be used as a landfill liner.
Unconfined compressive strength also got increased by 87.5% at optimum (1%)
concentration of Nano-clay.

Mostafa Mohammadi, (2013) investigated in this study a different percent of Nano-clay

Montmorillonite in order to check out created changes in soil characteristics with
increasing percent of Nano-clay. Compaction test have been done on soil and the direct
shear test, unconfined compression test, California bearing ratio (CBR) test and
Atterberg limits have been implemented on soil at the given percent of water. According
to implemented tests, adding Nano-clay to soil causes to increase liquid limit and plastic
limit of soil but plastic index reduce (PI=LL-PL) in soil. The effect of Nano-material in
soil properties are created by area of very large specific surface and superficial loading,
Nano-porosity of intra-particle and micro structure of mass and compacted form. By

adding Nano-clay soil shear strength of soil increase and that is because of cohesion
enhance; this keeps increasingly to 1.5% and then no change happen. Final strength
increased by increasing Nano-clay in unconfined compression test and CBR test. When
Nano-clay percent in soil reaches to 1.5% percent, soil has maximum final strength. As
Nano-clay increase to 2% the final strength of specimen reduce. According to gained
results it can be concluded that Nano-materials can influence in soil in the low percent.
This material can be used for improving soil properties.

Meisam Bahari, (2013) evaluated the physical and geotechnical properties improvement
of silt stabilized with Nano-clay through performing laboratory investigations as
Atterberg Limits, Compatibility, adhesion and internal friction angle for two types of
silt (ML and MH). Results shown that Nano-clay because of absorbing water has a
considerable influence on increasing the limits of liquid and plasticity, and increase in
adhesion and internal friction angle. This increase attributes to coherency of Nano-clay
when surrounded by water. This leads to growth of interlock forces between Nano-
particles in the vicinity of moisture which can cause soil stabilization by fastening the
particles together and filling pores.

M. Arabania, (2012) evaluated the laboratory results of unconfined compressive

strength (UCS), indirect tensile strengths and California Bearing Ratio (CBR) of sand
cement mixtures containing different amount of Nano-clay. The results indicated that
the reaction of alumino-silicate elements in Nano-clay with calcium hydroxide in
cement leads to the increasing in bond strength and consequently resulting in higher
tensile strength of hardened cement paste. By adding Nano-clay, the structure of soil
cement mixture has become denser and more uniform and even very small voids have
been removed.

Mohd Raihan Taha, (2012) performed an experimental study on four types of soils
mixed with three types of Nano-material of different percentages. The expansion and
shrinkage tests were conducted to investigate the effect of three types of Nano-materials
(Nano-clay, Nano-alumina, and Nano-copper) additive on repressing strains in
compacted residual soil mixed with different rations of bentonite (0%, 5%, 10%, and
20%). The mixtures of soil and Nano-materials enhance the engineering properties of
soils (i.e., compaction characteristics, volumetric shrinkage strain, volumetric expansive
strain, and the crack intensity factor). Insoluble Nano-material does not give chemical
reaction with soil by just mixing with water. The addition of Nano-clay does not
produce significant improvement in soil; however, content exceeding certain limits has
a negative effect. The improvement by Nano-copper was more positive than Nano-
alumina in terms of expansive and shrinkage strain. This is possibly because the particle
density of Nano-copper is greater than Nano-alumina which increases the specific
gravity of the soil Nano-material mixture leading to increase in the maximum dry

density of the mixture. The increase in the dry density subsequently leads to decrease in
the soil shrinkage and expansive strains. Moreover, the increase in the content of
agglomerated particles leads to decrease in the dry density and increase in voids which
increase the water content. Therefore, the shrinkage and swell strain also increases.
Since the size of Nano-copper particles is more than two times size of Nano-alumina
particles, the Nano-copper less agglomeration than Nano-alumina thus improving the
soil better than Nano-alumina.
The addition of Nano-materials more than the optimum value causes agglomeration of
particles that produce negative side effects on the mechanical properties of the soil. The
additive of Nano-materials does not reduce the hydraulic conductivity of soils.

Taha, M. R., (2009) Laboratory experiments were conducted to study the fundamental
geotechnical properties of mixtures of natural soils and its product after ball milling
operation. The product after ball milling process is termed Nano-soil herein. SEM
analysis showed that much more Nano size particles were obtained after the milling
process. Testing and comparison of the properties of original kaolinite, montmorillonite
and UKM soil with regard to its liquid limit, plastic limit, plasticity index, and specific
surface and after addition of its Nano-soil were also conducted. Nano-soil was used as a
possible soil improvement material. It was obtained from ball milling operations of a
parent soil. From SEM analysis, it is evident that after between 10 to 13 hours of
cyclonic milling operations, there were more Nano particles compared to the original
soils. The plastic and liquid limits of soil mixtures consisting of 98 % original soil and
2% Nano-soil increases compared to the values of 100 % original soil. However, the
plasticity index reduces which is advantageous in geotechnical construction such as
landfill liners and caps. Mixing 96 % UKM soil, 4 % cement and 2 % UKM Nano-soil
results in almost doubling the compressive strength compared with samples without
Nano soil. Thus, Nano-soil or more generally Nanoparticles is an excellent candidate
material for soil improvement.


This paper provides a review of the Nano additives used in stabilization of soil, with
different soil types and amounts, and their effects and results. Nano-silica and Nano-
clay are the major used additives in the researches. Different nanostructures exhibit
different properties. Due to their smaller dimensions, nanoparticles possess a very high
specific surface and react more actively with other particles in the soil matrix. The
existence of even a minute amount of these nanoparticles can result in extraordinary
effects on the engineering properties soil. This review showed that nanoparticles
influence the strength, permeability, compressibility, density, indices, and resistance
properties of soil. That was according to laboratory studies for the effect of using it as a
mixture with different percentages with and without cement, and this can be

implemented in the field in many ways, on its own as a mixture and mixing it to the soil
through mixing machines, or it can applied with other soil stabilization methods or
reinforcement system, such as road sub-base, grouting, etc. Future researches are
recommended to cover other nanoparticles and different soil types with different

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